I know breakfast is important, but I struggle to eat first thing in the morning. It takes me a bit of time to wake up enough to want to eat. So I usually eat my breakfast at work. A few years ago, this meant picking up a muffin from the bakery on my way to work. Not really the best start to the day. These days I’m a lot more organised (and making an effort to be healthier), and will take in fruit, cereal or home-made (and healthier) muffins for my breakfast.

A few years ago, I discovered the TV show Cook Yourself Thin. Two series of this show were filmed in the UK, with a different format each season. The general concept remained the same between the two series. Each episode focused on a person with weight issues and looked at their three (I think it was three) “downfall dishes”. Healthier, lower calorie dishes similar to the original were created as an alternative that could be cooked at home. I loved this show and I think it influenced what I try to do now, that is finding healthier alternatives to my favourites rather than cutting them out completely.  More recently the Hairy Bikers have done this with their book and TV series The Hairy Dieters, and I’ll cook something from their book soon (I of course bought the book as soon as I heard about it). I’m sure there are others out there as well that I haven’t discovered yet. If you know of any books or TV shows of a similar theme, please let me know.

But back to Cook Yourself Thin. These Lemon, Berry and Poppyseed muffins were the first recipe I tried from the series and I’ve made them several times since. They have quite a few replacement ingredients in them. The rice flour and almond meal make them gluten free (if you use gluten free baking powder). Courgette is used in place of butter or oil for moisture (you can’t taste it, I promise) and buttermilk is used in place of milk. I actually had some whey in the fridge from the cheese course I attended and I tried that instead of butter milk. The result was great (I think it actually made them lighter than usual) so I will be using that again next time I have some in the house. I like to wrap them individually once cooled and then freeze most of them. That way, I always have some in the freezer in case I need to grab something on my way to work. Once I get to work, I warm it in the microwave (removing the foil cases first if I’ve used them) and that is a quick breakfast or snack sorted.

The original recipe stated that it made 12 muffins at 191 kcal/9.7g of fat each. I’ve always gotten 18 or more from this recipe. Maybe they made them in larger tins, but I like these in the standard 12 muffin/cup cake (1/3 cup) tin.

Lemon, Berry & Poppyseed muffins

Makes 18-20 using a 1/3 cup muffin tin

Ingredients

  • 160g rice flour
  • 180g ground almonds/almond meal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 60g poppy seeds
  • 3 eggs
  • 160g fruit sugar (fructose) – see note
  • 3 lemons (zest of 3 and juice of two)
  • 250g grated zucchini (courgette) – see note
  • 100ml buttermilk (or whey from yoghurt/cheese making)
  • 150g berries (fresh or frozen) of your choice. The original recipe used blueberries. I like to use frozen mixed berries.

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan forced (200C without fan). Line 2 muffin tins (1/3 cup) with enough cases for 18 – 20 muffins.
  2. Combine the rice flour, ground almonds, baking powder, bicarb and poppyseeds in a large mixing bowl. Stir until combined. I use a whisk at this stage to get rid of any lumps.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric hand mixer (or in a stand mixer) for approximately 3 minutes until pale and creamy. The mix should more than double in size. Add the lemon zest, juice, grated zucchini, buttermilk and berries and mix gently to combine.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Fold in gently until they are just combined. Be careful not to over mix. I used an ice-cream scoop to fill the muffin tins, with one scoop filling each case. You want to fill to the top as these do not really rise.
  5. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes (check after 20 however). They are cooked when the bounce back when you press in the centre with your finger, or when a bamboo skewer comes out clean.   Allow to cool before serving (or wrapping up to freeze for another day).

Notes:

  • I know there have been some questions recently regarding the use of fructose. If you prefer, you can use caster sugar instead of fruit sugar (fruit sugar is sweeter so you use less of it). I think you’d need to use 240g of caster sugar.
  • Make sure you squeeze out as much water as you can from the grated zucchini before weighing it. I needed a 400g zucchini to get 250g after grating and squeezing out the water.

Adapted from Cook Yourself Thin – Lemon, blueberry and poppyseed muffin 

Do you have any favourite recipes that are healthy alternative to an old favourite, or a clever replacement ingredient that you use? I’d love to hear about them if you do.